peace, love and kindness

Note to readers: You may or may not have noticed that it has been almost two months since my last blog entry. Since I began blogging in April of 2009, I have never once taken a break from blogging. Blogging has been a way to digest my experience, dive into deep spiritual inquiry, and integrate my spiritual path. But this year, I have found myself with less urgency to blog, not because there isn’t much to write about, but because there has been an inner draw towards stillness and a movement out of the left brain realm of language and into the right brain territory of the heart, where words can sometimes be distracting. I also needed to create an inner spaciousness to digest some of the miraculous experiences that have happened to me, some of which I relay in my upcoming book The Anatomy of a Calling: A Doctor’s Journey from the Head to the Heart and a Prescription for Finding Your Life’s Purpose. (You can preorder it here if it calls to you.) That said, today’s blog has been bubbling around in me. Thank you, as always, for caring about what I write and allowing it to help you better know your own true self. I have a feeling more blog posts will be bubbling forth rather soon, so stay tuned!

I have always admired people who are exceptionally kind, but I’ve never felt like I am necessarily a particularly kind person. Smart, talented, accomplished, inspiring—perhaps. But am I kind? Sometimes. Sometimes not. I think my soul is yearning to express more kindness more often, so I’ve found myself pondering kindness as a sort of meditation all month.

What is kindness?

What does it mean to be kind?

Is there a way to be kind without selling out your essence?

What is the difference between love and kindness?

Am I kind?

Who is kind to me?

Could I be more kind to others?

Could I be more kind to myself?

Such are the genuine questions that have been rolling around inside of me lately.

What Is Kindness?

I think kindness is an underrated value in our culture. We tend to value intelligence, charisma, coolness, talent, inspiration, beauty, and other bright sparkly attributes that can radiate out of even the most narcissistic individuals.

But what about kindness? Kindness is quiet. It tends to float under the radar. Kindness doesn’t draw attention to itself. Unless someone happens to capture true kindness on video, kindness doesn’t necessarily attract a lot of attention on the internet. Perhaps kindness is even more effective when offered anonymously.

What is kindness? It’s not what you might think. Kindness can get mistaken for people-pleasing and approval-seeking, which isn’t the same thing as true kindness. Kindness is an impulse of love. People-pleasing and approval-seeking are impulses of fear. When we sell out our own needs in order to do nice things for others, we grow resentful and fail to be kind to ourselves. Kindness isn’t about being selfish and insensitive, but it’s also not about sacrificing your needs and desires in order to make other people happy at the expense of your own happiness. True kindness feels just as good to the kindness giver as to the kindness receiver.

Kindness stems from love, but love is a feeling inside. Kindness is a behavior. It is love in action. You might say you love someone, but kindness talks less and does more. Kindness arises from the impulse of love as it intuits and responds to the needs of others. Kindness eases the suffering of others and increases joy in the world.

Do You Attract Kind People?

I tend to learn my soul lessons the hard way, so true to my patterns, I have had a tendency to attract unkind people in the past. But as I have learned the fine art of discernment (discernment, not judgment, allows inner discrimination to determine who you allow into your inner circle), kindness has become one of my core values. There are many people who may impress you with their gifts, talents, charismatic personalities, intelligence, and magnetism. But are they kind? How do they treat the people who serve them in restaurants or hotels? Do they take other people’s feelings into account when they make decisions? Do they go out of their way to offer up acts of generosity and sweetness? Are they kind and loving to themselves?

Inner discernment allows you to be wildly loving without fear of others taking advantage of your kindness. In response to one of my Facebook posts, Susan Graf Burlingame wrote, “Having learned the art of boundaries, giving is no longer about people-pleasing or approval-seeking. I have always been an innately kind person but my motives were not always in alignment with my soul. With healthy boundaries, I can be kind all day, every day without the fear of having a motive attached.”

Practicing Discernment

To be kind to others, we must first be kind to ourselves. Once we promise ourselves that we will be kind to ourselves first, we can practice kindness without losing ourselves or self-sacrificing. When we know we can trust ourselves to only give when we have bandwidth to give, when we trust ourselves to create gentle and nonjudgmental distance from unkind people, we can practice kindness without limit. We can give without expectation of reciprocity. We can open our hearts and let kindness flow through us as Love Itself pouring through us, offering up its bounty to ourselves, and overflowing onto others without depleting us one bit.

Then, kindness becomes a side effect of self care and self love. When we are kind to ourselves, we are kind to others and we tend to attract people who are kind to us.

Being a Benevolent Presence

In Adyashanti’s book Resurrecting Jesus, he talks about the spiritual path and the resulting “death of self” as a sort of crucifixion and resurrection. I love what he has to say about kindness.

“What comes back to life out of the ashes of the death of self is something that’s really quite simple, but quite poignant. From that place, the only thing left to do is to be a benevolent presence in the world. I don’t say this because one wants to do it or tries to do it. All attempts to be spiritual or pure or compassionate or loving, all of that striving is just what the ego or self tries to do or to be. But when all that falls away, there’s literally nothing left to do; there’s no life orientation that makes sense other than to be a selfless and benevolent presence. This may happen on a big stage, but it may just mean being a benevolent grandmother or a mother or daughter or son or business owner. It doesn’t have to look any particular way, and in fact, the resurrected state can actually look quite normal.”

I like that, the idea of being a benevolent presence as an embodiment of kindness. Makes me think of the Hippocratic Oath, which at its root, is about harmlessness. At the root of kindness is a sort of harmlessness. First, do no harm. When we clear out what is not our true essence and allow ourselves to be vessels of love, harmlessness is a side effect, and kindness arises from this place of beingness.

Be Kinder Than Is Necessary

In the children’s book WONDER, the school principal challenges his students to practice being “kinder than is necessary.” What would it mean to be kinder than is necessary? What would that mean for YOU? What act of kindness might you choose to enact today? What unkind act might you avoid choosing today? How might you tune into the needs and desires of your loved ones so you can surprise them with kindness? How might you touch the heart of a stranger? How might your heart crack open if you dared to be kinder than is necessary?

Tell us, what does kindness mean to you? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

With love,

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24 Comments

  1. Tina Louise Balodi

    Thank you for this! I love this! I inspire our girls to “be kind & aligned.” I also inspire people to be Prana Boosters™. All of my teachings are based on kindness & Ahimsa (nonviolence)

    Reply
    • Karen Riordon Palmer

      Tina I just sent you a message on your website. I love what you are doing I am a kundalini yoga instructor and non-profit business leader in Solvang, California my organization is working toward bringing kindness, mindfulness, and yoga to schools. Blessings to you and yours.

      Reply
  2. Barbara Desmarais

    Lisa, I think kindness is really what we all yearn for from others but it isn’t reveared in the same way as brilliance, talent, wealth or achievement. Kindness to self and others goes much further than anything else.

    Reply
  3. Karen Renee

    Thankfully I follow you on facebook, so I get to see your updates, there.

    I think “Are they kind to themselves?” is a question that is rarely asked. It made me realize, again, that those who wound themselves inevitably end up causing pain for those who love them, no matter how kind their intentions may be.

    I hope to teach my children how to live within the flow of kindness so they will create a safe space for themselves and those whom they love, also. And the best way I know how is to be what I hope they will imitate.

    Reply
  4. Karen Riordon Palmer

    I am a mom on a #globalkindness crusade spreading kindness using social media for a greater good. Please join https://bit.ly/1dYqtIV I have followed you Lisa for a few years and shared my journey from self doubt to self love. Your messages have always been kind and empowering you have helped me on this journey I hope you will help me help our world you can read more about my mission of #kinderism in our schools. Blessings to you and yours and keep shining your beautiful light.

    Reply
  5. Krishna

    Lissa, Excellent topic for discussion! I believe that Kindness to self is equally important as kindness to others. And kindness is reflected in actions rather than words. True Kindness never ask for anything in return and it always touches the heart of another person. Kindness is the strength of humanity though it demand lot of patience because it goes unnoticed many times.
    Compassion and kindness are recognized as basic human values. Compassion is always accompanied by mercy to help those in need while kindness is always accompanied by affection and entails being generous to all living beings.
    We tend to lose ourselves in acts of kindness and compassion thereby bringing misery on ourselves. It’s always wonderful to be compassionate towards others but not at the expense of compromising your own higher values. You yourself deserve kindness and compassion like others do. And sometimes fortifying healthy boundaries can be a kind act for yourself as well as others. So, it always varies according to the situation/ circumstances.

    Reply
  6. raymond geary

    Kindness is a touch,a stroke, a hold onto another person who has a need to feel that someone cares in their hour of need. That touch is felt as an opening of one heart to another’s heart which has been torn by one of lifes hurts.

    Reply
  7. Sharon Heim

    I think kindness, although not easy, is the most important quality in a friend or partner I think, and next for me is intelligence. Without kindness, intelligence can be so cruel. The two paired together can do wonders. I wish schools and families would encourage both in tandem. I loved this post, thank you Lissa.

    Reply
  8. T. L. Parks

    If you are being kind to others but not yourself, that’s self sacrifice…and resentment is sure to follow.
    Unfortunately, in our society–kindness may be met with skepticism. Its an unfamiliar territory for most. But when this action is honest, and comes from a gentle place, it has the potential to change all that it touches. This sweet energy is greatly missing in our world today, but it is not lost. Discussions like this help bring it forth.

    Reply
  9. Thom Petty

    yesterday, walking in NYC, i watched a woman crossing the street. she was large and crooked at the hip and so used a cane. she wore a heavy coat on a humid day and her crossing, one could see, was a long journey for her. the light changed and the cars veered around her but finally she made the curb where i helped her onto the sidewalk. “how are you?” i asked? she looked up at me and said nothing but her smile took up her whole face. she made my heart sing with that smile.

    someone watching might have thought it was i who was kind having helped her out of the street. oh but, that smile. it was she who gave. thank you, whoever you were.

    Reply
  10. George V Helou

    Thank you for writing about such an empowering insights into kindness Lissa. I find that kindness when it’s inconvenient is when it shines the brightest and become incredible humbling. I love how it melts hearts and creates a special bond between people. Your reference to the school principal that said be kinder than is necessary is exactly that this is.

    When people expect you to be upset and angry because they make a mistake that hurt you and instead you turn and show patience and compassion – this is a kindness that the world needs more of. But that random act of kindness where we decide someone that has no reason to expect anything from us and we from them suddenly matters to us and warrants the effort of a gift, this is incredible rewarding.

    Reply
  11. Grace Jenkins

    I’ve spent much of my life as a people-pleaser and a witty charmer as many of us were raised to be from my era. The trouble is, it’s a no-win, because the old ego always ‘shoulds’ on you with all it’s criticism. It makes for an exhausting way of life and as your wonderful blog points out, is such an unkind way to treat oneself. Perhaps kindness comes partially from maturity and partially from a spiritual awakening. Awakening to the realization of your own loving, perfect essence enables you to set necessary boundaries. Your actions come more from your heart and connect you at a much deeper level to others, and the person you are becomes much more authentic. Kindness to oneself and others is a wonderful by-product of that authenticity.

    Reply
  12. Kim

    Kindness is the way to abundance for society. Your blog post described many of the same thoughts I had as I wrote the article, “Soccer Moms, Save Us!” (See https://imaginew.weebly.com/blog/archives/07-2014). Thank you for your insight.

    Reply
  13. Cheryl Janis

    At a certain point in my life, I simply set my boundaries so that kindness and compassion were the number one priority in all my relationships, including my relationship with myself. Kindness and compassion permeate every facet of my life–my Beloved who I met when I was 40 years old continues to help me grow into more kindness and compassion, and my work of designing patient-centered healthcare and healing spaces are built on the foundation of the Love of compassion & kindness in environments that help others heal. It certainly helps that I’m an empath & an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) so kindness and compassion are my constant companion. A big hello to my sensitive brother and sister kindred Spirits out there!

    Reply
  14. K W Marcel

    Thank you so much, Lissa, for this very compelling message. You know, I didn’t realize until I read this that I have this mental construct that I either be kind to others or kind to myself. I really get that first I must be kind of myself and the discernment to reconcile this with being kind to others will naturally follow. Beautiful!

    Reply
  15. Jill Kelley

    Thank you, Lissa, for highlighting WHAT REALLY MATTERs! I wish that your beautifully-articulated message would be posted on hospital walls, ORs, ERs, in doctor’s offices, in every medical clinic, medical school, and medical book. Over the course of my life, of all of the professions that have been of service to me, the medical profession has consistently proven to be the least kind and compassionate. They’re in a hurry, don’t have time to listen, are ruled by egos that position them as “medical gods,” demean patients, show up hostile and bitter, exude mammoth amounts of arrogance (to include with one another), and are incapable of being present to the patient because they’re incapable of doing it for themselves and with each other. Kindness didn’t show up for me in the medical profession until I went to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, MD. I thought I had been catapulted onto another planet where kindness, listening, and caring were the medical oath cornerstones. Truly, I was in shock! The doctors actually come out to the waiting rooms to greet the patients AND take time … right then and there … to take a few moments to connect with the patients and genuinely ask them about their travel, etc. I had never ever witnessed such dignity being extended to patients by physicians! At the end of my 2-hour appointment, I sat in tears as I thanked the doctor for being so kind and caring, and, above all, for taking time to really listen and respond thoughtfully to me. His response: “Listen, Ms. Kelley: By the time people come to Johns Hopkins, they’ve already seen at least 8 or 9 doctors who haven’t heard them.” He placed both of his hands on my shoulders, looked into my eyes, and emphatically proclaimed, “IT IS OUR JOB TO LISTEN TO PATIENTS.” From thAT moment on, I have felt permission to seek out physicians and medical practitioners who are capable of truly listening and of being KIND and compassionate. It makes a HUGE difference in how you feel about yourself and how you take care of yourself. People cannot afford to be, and do not deserve to be, shamed and intimidated by doctors. Lissa, we need courageous people like you to bring positive change to the culture of medicine!!! Thank you for your strength, tenacity, and your willingness to be vulnerable!

    Reply
  16. Mamta

    Thank you Lissa for this thought provoking post. Reading it brought forth the thought that if I am thinking of being kind to myself and others, or self love to be able to love others, I am still caught up in duality or separation. I do not know how to work through this – simply sharing the thought that your words help bring forth. Maybe what u say is a step in the right direction, and we still have a ling way to go. Maybe this is a life long process and we are here to work through it.

    Reply
  17. Meredith Walters

    I love the reminder that the best place to start is with kindness to ourselves. I also love the quote’s insight that we can’t strive for kindness or it becomes just another ego project.

    I find that some kinds of kindness come naturally–responding to people with love, for example, and concern for how they feel. Other kinds–initiating an act or statement that would ease someone else’s day–don’t arise spontaneously for me. I appreciate the reminder to get outside of my own head and experience, which can feel so critical, and think of others. Doing so helps me remember that what’s happening in my head isn’t so important after all.

    Reply
  18. Zhila

    Thank you for shining your light on the unsung hero that is kindness. Kindness generates hope in the world. What could be more important than that?

    Reply
  19. Terry Neff Allen

    I gave an in-service in my nurse’s staff meeting about being kind to yourself. I love this post. I just found you and your work. Wish I had found you sooner!!

    Reply
  20. Janet Komanchuk

    I believe kindness and compassion go hand in hand, treating others as you would wish to be treated if your roles were reversed.

    Reply
  21. Gail Caporaletti

    Your words continue to resonate with my heart…I mean whenever i happen to come accross your blogs its like you now exactly what Im thinking..Thank you…

    Reply
  22. Gail Caporaletti

    Kindness truly fills the heart with joy…..

    Reply
  23. Stephani Hemness

    A kind stranger recently complemented my grandmothers sunglasses, and so my grandmother gave them to her. Kindness to me is contagious.

    Reply

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